Cognitive Surplus Project

Several years ago, I read a book called “Cognitive Surplus“, written by Clay Shirky. And no, I wasn’t just drawn to this book because the author’s first name is “Clay”!

Cognitive Surplus is a study of what happens when society uses our collective efforts, aided by technology, to create things that are greater than the sum of their parts. In particular, he writes about how that collective energy can enact social change. For example, Wikipedia is arguably the largest storehouse of information in the history of humankind, but it was built piece by piece by millions of small contributions by who knows how many people. The fact that Wikipedia was built using roughly 1% of the human-hours people spending watching TV each year shows what we can accomplish with our collective cognitive surplus.

For this project, we will build a collection of reading and listening materials that is a reflect the varying perspectives in our class. The list will be a snapshot of where we are at this moment – individually, but also as a group. The sources we collect can be scanned readings from books or magazines, online articles, short stories, podcasts, audio books, or anything we can link to from a webpage.

The sources should be what you’re reading or listening to now, what’s inspiring you, what is motivating you to make more work, or become a better person, or what you’re turning to to educate yourself on an issue – think about what content you’re absorbing right now. You might be surprised how those influences percolate into your work.

Each person will submit 3-5 sources and we’ll compile them in one place for study. We’ll generate artwork in response to this group snapshot.

To get you started, here’s what I’m reading and listening to right now:

These three books are a snapshot of the moment, what I’m interested in, how I’m trying to become a better person, artist, and educator. But it’s just a snapshot. In another month, it’ll be a new snapshot. When we each do this, we’ll have a really snapshot of our group this semester.

Remember, the sources don’t have to be books, they can be short stories, podcasts, audio files, anything we can link to.